The Science of Sadness: Why do we shed tears?

From birth, weeping is something we are all familiar with. Sometimes we even cry while we watch a sad movie or when we burst out laughing.

But what is the biological interest of making water flow out of our eyes when we feel a great emotion? First, there are different types of tears.

Lubrication of the base of our eyes is a constant layer of moisture that prevents our eyes from drying out.

Then there is the lubrication of reflex tears that protect the eyes from irritants like smoke, dust, and wind. These are the same tears that flow when you cut onions, and this is because our brain releases hormones that trigger glands that are designed to protect our eyes.

One of the reasons we cry when we are upset is to be able to communicate our true emotions to those around us. This puts us in a state of passivity, literally blurring our eyes and almost incapacitating us from any aggressive behavior.

Another theory says that crying is a literal way to soothe stress. When we have an intense emotion of any kind, it must be evacuated in one way or another.

Different types of tears

There are three types of tears

  • Lubrication tears are used to moisturize the cornea, lubricate the eye and remove dust.
  • Reflex tears are related to irritation of the eye by irritating substances or particles (onion, sand, chemical …). This is an emergency response. They can also be caused by strong glare, yawning or a strong cough.
  • Emotional tears are an increase in tear secretions in case of strong emotional stress. This is not limited to negative emotions, we also cry for joy. They are usually accompanied by other signs of trouble such as reddening, convulsive breathing, spasms or tremors. If we do not know exactly the origin and cause of the emotional tears, we know nevertheless that this type of tear contains proteins and hormones, including prolactin which is stress related and corticotropes which are natural analgesics. These analgesics would give us a soothing sensation.

Another interesting aspect: the pattern of reflex tear composition is very different from that of the composition of emotional tears.

Reflex tears contain much higher levels of protein, while emotional tears contain high levels of stress, such as corticotropic hormone (ACTH) or enkephalins, an endorphin and a natural painkiller. So when we cry, we literally release ourselves and alleviate our stress.

Tears can be seen as a physical manifestation of an internal emotional reaction. This is how our body releases its emotions.

Everyone knows that after crying one usually feels better, and that explains why. Crying is the release of stress and emotional baggage.

Experiments were carried out in relation to images of tears that were processed in Photoshop of people in tears, but in spite of that, all those who had visualized the image still managed to acknowledge the sadness. People know inherently when someone feels bad.

So go ahead, do not be ashamed or embarrassed to cry. It is a state quite natural and beautiful at the same time that, in the end, can help us to weave deeper ties with ourselves and others.

When people notice that you are vulnerable, they feel more comfortable to open up to you.

You can create a strong connection with someone by showing him the sensitive side of your being, and in turn he will do the same.